Friday, December 3, 2010

Gift Ideas List Part Deux

The Pan.

Let me say one thing up front and then we’ll move on. On principle, I do not endorse buying any cooking equipment labeled for celebrity chefs unless they do what Paul Newman did and donate every nickel and penny to charity. A name does not make the product.

OK. Nuf said.

The best value is a very good cast iron pan. And, the best are the pre-seasoned pans made by Lodge. There is little you cannot do---and do well---with these pans. I use them for sauté, frying, braising, searing and moving between stovetop and oven. They make the best pancakes and corn bread and are built to last beyond a lifetime.

What can’t you do with a Lodge cast iron pan? Put it in the dishwasher. These pans must be washed by hand and given a regular rub down with vegetable oil. Given their price---under $25 for a 12” model---they are a spectacular value.

At the other extreme----the most luxurious and expensive---are pans made of copper. Copper is beautiful and heats quickly and evenly which means it is highly responsive. There is little wait time for your pan to reach temperature and it also cools quickly, protecting delicate sauces or meat from over browning. Copper does need regular polishing but there is something about using a copper pan that just promises gorgeous food.

The most popular copper cookware found in this country are made by Calphalon, Ruffoni , All-Clad, Falk and Mauviel Cuprinox.

What you need to look for when buying a copper pan:
1. A lifetime warranty from the manufacturer. You’ll be spending a king’s ransom when you buy good copper and you need assurance that the manufacturer will guarantee it’s quality.
2. Thickness or gauge. The thicker the copper the better the heat distribution. Look for a pan that is 2.5mm thick.
3. Lining. The best copper pans are lined in aluminum. If you find one that is cheap, chances are it’s lined with tin and the copper coating is just for show and will wear off quickly. Do not waste your money on a thin tin lined copper pan.

Falk and Mauviel Cuprinox make the best copper cookware. Prices for a 12” pan average $290. (I said it was a luxury.)

For all around practicality, price and general use I love Cuisinart's Chef's Classic Stainless cookware. I give it high scores for performance and value and it is good looking. The handle is handsomely attached with rivets and stays cool to the touch. It goes easily from stovetop to oven and is dishwasher safe. No, it is not non-stick but food cooked in a properly heated pan will not stick….even crepes.

A 14” Cuisinart stainless pan is about $38. If you can buy only one good pan, make it this one.

Non-stick. I love non-stick pans for every day use. They are forgiving and you don’t have to break the bank to get a good one.

But, the main benefits of using nonstick pans, besides easier cleanup, is that you don't have to use much oil to coat the surface. This cuts down on fat and keeps meals healthier. Look for nonstick cookware that has several layers of the nonstick coating. Three layers are good enough. More means the price soars. Calphalon has a 2-pan set-----12” and 10”----for under $50. They get my vote.

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